CO. ex-Prosecutor Turns Defense Attorney

by Curtis Boyd

Smart Defensive Driving Tips

Defensive Driving is Safe Driving

Defensive driving is a type of driving that is highly safety-oriented. When people focus on defensive driving, their goal is to steer clear of any of the dangers that are frequently seen on the road. Defensive driving can often prevent many perilous and often even fatal situations from occurring on the streets. If you want to drive safely, then defensive driving should be something you participate in 100 percent of the time. A respected DUI attorney such as Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Christian Schwaner is extremely well-versed in what is considered reckless endangerment. Keep yourself, passengers in your vehicle and fellow drivers on the road safe and secure by always keeping the following defensive driving tips in mind.

Reduce Distractions to the Best of Your Ability

If you’re distracted when you’re behind the wheel, then you’re potentially a big danger to yourself and to others who are sharing the road with you. Cell phone use, snack consumption, engaging in conversation with others and listening to music can all be extremely distracting to drivers. If you want to listen to music while in the car, for example, try to avoid participating in a discussion with any of your passengers. The fewer distractions you have when you’re in your auto, the better it is for everyone. Distractions make drivers vulnerable to accidents.

Maintain Your Concentration

Safe driving involves a lot of thinking. When you’re in your vehicle, you have to consider many different things, from traffic laws to conditions on the road and beyond. You also have to pay attention to other vehicles that are near you. The list of considerations is practically endless. This is why it’s always so vital for drivers to maintain strong concentration. If you daydream and fail to pay attention to the task at hand — driving — then you could potentially lead to major danger on the road for all.

Get Sufficient Sleep

Driving while exhausted and drowsy is a serious no-no. Don’t ever get behind the wheel of a car unless you’ve gotten sufficient rest the night before. Not only is it crucial to always be fully alert and awake when you’re driving, but it’s also crucial to refrain from consuming alcohol and taking drugs before getting in the car. Remember, substances such as alcohol and drugs can make you significantly less alert. They can also greatly reduce your concentration abilities.

Educate Yourself on Traffic Laws Regularly

If you want to be a safe and highly conscientious driver who cares about yourself and who also cares about the well-being of all the other people in vehicles near you, make sure you’re always aware of updated traffic laws.


Christian A. Schwaner, esq. As a former prosecutor, I know the system. Now I use that experience to defend good people who’ve made mistakes.

Christian A. Schwaner, P.C.
Colorado Springs
Criminal Law

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Alexandra K. Thompson sentenced for brutal Oly beatdown

It’s not that the police or public don’t care about brutal assaults on Olympia’s streets in broad daylight because, well, they don’t! (Oly’s Tenderloin Street Crime: Bizniz As Usual?)


Alexandra K. Thompson — the Banality of Oly Violence?

by Amelia Dickson

Olympia, WA (7-11-15) — A 20-year-old Olympia woman will serve a six-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree assault, a charge stemming from a May altercation at the Artesian Commons Park in downtown Olympia.

Alexandra K. Thompson entered her plea before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson on Friday. She had been in custody in the Thurston County Jail since her May 10 arrest, and will serve the rest of her sentence in the county jail.

Her co-defendant, 32-year-old Brynn K. Thomas, pleaded guilty in June to second-degree rendering criminal assistance. She hasn’t been sentenced yet.


Brynn Thomas


Deputy Prosecutor Jim Powers recommended the six-month sentence, and told the judge that the May 7 assault left the victim hospitalized with facial fractures and cuts that required stitches.


“This was a completely unprovoked attack,” Powers said.

Olympia police responded to the Artesian Commons about 4:30 p.m. after a witness reported that a woman was bleeding heavily from her head, according to court documents. The woman was transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital. She identified her attackers as Thompson and Thomas.

Surveillance footage of the park showed that the two women arrived at the park in a white van. They climbed out of the vehicle and approached the victim, who was riding her bike past the park. Footage shows Thompson punching the victim in the face, knocking her off the bicycle.

Footage shows that Thompson then punched the woman in the head 13 times while she was lying on the ground, according to court documents.

Karl Hack, Thompson’s attorney, asked the judge to award his client a five-month sentence. He said Thompson wants to take advantage of free tuition in a GED program before she turns 21. Wilson denied his request, explaining that the serious charge warranted the six-month sentence.

During the hearing, Thompson apologized for the assault.

“She did not deserve what I did to her. … I am not proud in anyway of what I did,” Thompson said.

(*Ahem!* It’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words. The moral of the following photos is: Grow up to be pretty–you’ll do a lot less time for your crimes and your critics will be written off as curmudgeons…or worse.)

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Miguel A. Mendoza Charged w/Stabbing Ray R. Walkup


by Andrew Davis

Shelton, WA (7-9-15) — Shelton police spent most of the July 1 morning responding to reports that a man had been stabbed outside Bob’s Tavern on South First Street.

After locating the victim, who had a laceration on his shoulder, police arrested Miguel Mendoza, 45, later that day and charged him w/assault w/a deadly weapon, a 2nd degree (Class ‘B’) felony. Police responded to the call shortly after midnight.

Officers located the victim at the Arcadia Chevron on Arcadia Road and Olympic Highway Souther, where they identified him as 36-yeajr old Ray Walkup of Elma, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Walkup was applying pressure to a would w/a towel in his upper right chest area near his shoulder, according to the police report.

Walkup told police Mendoza had stabbed him with a gray box cutter outside the Ritz Drive-In, which is located across the street from Bob’s Tavern on South First Street.

Walkup was transported to Mason County General Hospital and police continued the search for Mendoza. Police located Mendoza in the 300 block of South Fifth Street and arrested him on a Washington State Department of Corrections felony warrant.

Mendoza was transported to Mason County Jail, where he remained Tuesday on $7,500 bail. He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

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Stacy Harvey Stabs Sleeping Husband in the Back?


Stacy L. Harvey of 203 S 12th St, Shelton, WA 98584

Shelton, WA (7-9-15) — Stacy isn’t the first woman to invoke the abused woman defense against charges of domestic violence. It also illustrates the problem of domestic violence runs deeper than gender.

Andrew Davis (for the Mason County Journal) reported the woman accused of stabbing her husband last month pleaded not guilty Monday in Mason County Superior Court, Judge Amber Finlay presiding.

Stacy Harvey, 50, of the 200 block of South 12th Street, is facing attempted murder charges for allegedly stabbing her husband, Walter Harvey, in the back on June 22, 2015.


Harvey has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for 8-17-15 and a trial date set for 8-25-15.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Harvey’s husband called the police after being woken up with a knife sticking out of his back. A blanket was pinned between the knife and his back.

Harvey Told police she was tired of her husband’s abuse toward her. She said she would track her husband down and “finish the job” if she was released.

Harvey is being held at Mason County Jail on $150,000 bail.


Walter Harvey

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What the Declaration of Independence Truly Means

Volokh Conspiracy?


by Randy Barnett


[Mr. Barnett is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, Georgetown University Law Center, and Director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. His books include: Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (Princeton, 2d. ed 2014); and The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law.]

(As we celebrate Independence Day, I thought I would post a couple excerpts about the Declaration of Independence from my forthcoming book, Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Sovereignty of the People (which is now available for pre-order on Amazon). This passage of the book appears after the one I posted here.)

Today, while all Americans have heard of the Declaration of Independence, all too few have read more than its second sentence. Yet the Declaration shows the natural rights foundation of the American Revolution and provides important information about what the founders believed makes a constitution or government legitimate. It also raises the question of how these fundamental rights are reconciled with the idea of “the consent of the governed,” another idea for which the Declaration is famous.

When reading the Declaration, it is worth keeping in mind two very important facts. The Declaration constituted high treason against the Crown. Every person who signed it would be executed as traitors should they be caught by the British. Second, the Declaration was considered to be a legal document by which the revolutionaries justified their actions and explained why they were not truly traitors. It represented, as it were, a literal indictment of the Crown and Parliament, in the very same way that criminals are now publicly indicted for their alleged crimes by grand juries representing “the People.”

But to justify a revolution, it was not thought to be enough that officials of the government of England, the Parliament, or even the King himself had violated the rights of the people. No government is perfect; all governments violate rights. This was well known.

So the Americans had to allege more than mere violations of rights. They had to allege nothing short of a criminal conspiracy to violate their rights systematically. Hence the Declaration’s famous reference to “a long train of abuses and usurpations” and the list that followed. In some cases, these specific complaints account for provisions eventually included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But before this list of particular grievances come two paragraphs succinctly describing the political theory on which the new polity was founded. To appreciate all that is packed into these two paragraphs, it is useful to break down the Declaration into some of its key claims.

  1. When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

This first sentence is often forgotten. It asserts that Americans as a whole, rather than as members of their respective colonies, are a distinct “people.” And this “one people” is not a collective entity, but an aggregate of particular individuals. So “they” not it should “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

To “dissolve the political bands” revokes the “social compact” that existed between the Americans and the rest of the people of the British commonwealth, reinstates the “state of nature” between Americans and the government of Great Britain, and makes “the Laws of Nature” the standard by which this dissolution and whatever government is to follow are judged. As Committee of Five delegate Roger Sherman observed in 1774, after hostilities broke out with the British, “We are Now in a State of Nature.”

[Newt Gingrich: Five myths about the founding fathers]

But what are these “Laws of Nature”? To answer this, we can turn to a sermon delivered by the Reverend Elizur Goodrich at the Congregational Church in Durham Connecticut on the eve of the Philadelphia constitutional convention. At the time of the founding, it was a common practice for ministers to be invited to give an “election sermon” before newly-elected government officials, in this case the delegates to the Constitutional convention, to encourage them to govern according to God’s ways.

In his sermon, Goodrich explained that “the principles of society are the laws, which Almighty God has established in the moral world, and made necessary to be observed by mankind; in order to promote their true happiness, in their transactions and intercourse.” These laws, Goodrich observed, “may be considered as principles, in respect of their fixedness and operation,” and by knowing them, “we discover the rules of conduct, which direct mankind to the highest perfection, and supreme happiness of their nature.” These rules of conduct, he then explained, “are as fixed and unchangeable as the laws which operate in the natural world. Human art in order to produce certain effects, must conform to the principles and laws, which the Almighty Creator has established in the natural world.”

In this sense, natural laws govern every human endeavor, not just politics. They undergird what may be called “normative disciplines,” by which I mean those bodies of knowledge that guide human conduct—bodies of knowledge that tell us how we ought to act if we wish to achieve our goals. To illustrate this, Goodrich offered examples from agriculture, engineering, and architecture:

He who neglects the cultivation of his field, and the proper time of sowing, may not expect a harvest. He, who would assist mankind in raising weights, and overcoming obstacles, depends on certain rules, derived from the knowledge of mechanical principles applied to the construction of machines, in order to give the most useful effect to the smallest force: And every builder should well understand the best position of firmness and strength, when he is about to erect an edifice.

To ignore these principles is nothing short of denying reality, like jumping off a roof imagining that one can fly. “For he, who attempts these things, on other principles, than those of nature, attempts to make a new world; and his aim will prove absurd and his labour lost.” By making “a new world,” Goodrich meant denying the nature of the world in which we live. He concludes: “No more can mankind be conducted to happiness; or civil societies united, and enjoy peace and prosperity, without observing the moral principles and connections, which the Almighty Creator has established for the government of the moral world.”

The fact that Goodrich was a relatively obscure public figure—though his son would go on to serve as a Federalist congressman from Connecticut—shows the commonplace understanding of natural law. And Goodrich’s task was to remind the Connecticut delegates of the proper understanding of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

  1. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The most famous line of the Declaration, and for some the only line they know. The Committee of Five’s draft referred to these as “inalienable” rights, but for reasons unknown the word was changed to “unalienable” sometime in the process of printing it for the public.

What are inalienable or “unalienable” rights? They are those you cannot give up even if you want to and consent to do so, unlike other rights that you can agree to transfer or waive. Why the claim that these rights are inalienable? The Founders want to counter England’s claim that, by accepting the colonial governance, the colonists had waived or alienated their rights. The Framers claimed that with inalienable rights, you always retain the ability to take back any right that has been given up.

The standard trilogy throughout this period was “life, liberty, and property.” For example, in its Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress (1774), Congress had previously asserted that “the inhabitants of the English colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts,” have the following rights: “That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.” Or, as the influential British political theorist John Locke wrote, “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

[Opinion: How one period could change the Declaration of Independence]

Perhaps the most commonly repeated formulation combines the right of property with the pursuit of happiness. This was the version drafted by George Mason for the Virginia Declaration of Rights—not the version actually approved by the Virginia convention in Williamsburg on June 11th, 1776, the very day that the Committee of Five was formed in Philadelphia to draft the Declaration for the nation.

The Virginia Convention balked at Mason’s specific wording “on the ground that it was not compatible with a slaveholding society. They changed ‘are born equally free’ to ‘are by nature equally free,’ and ‘inherent natural rights’ to ‘inherent rights.’” The adopted version read:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

As we will see, the language of Mason’s radical draft—rather than either Virginia’s final wording or Jefferson’s more succinct formulation—became the canonical statement of first principles. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont adopted Mason’s original references to “born equally free” and to “natural rights,” into their declarations of rights. In 1783, this language was used by the Massachusetts supreme court to invalidate slavery in that state. And in 1823, it was invoked in an influential opinion by Justice Bushrod Washington explaining the meaning of “privileges and immunities” of citizens in the several states.

On the one hand, this sentence of the Declaration will become a great embarrassment to a people who allowed the continuation of chattel slavery. On the other hand, making a public claim like this has consequences. That is why people make them publicly—to be held to account. Eventually, the Declaration became a lynchpin of the moral and constitutional arguments of the nineteenth-century abolitionists. It had to be explained away by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott. It was much relied upon by Abraham Lincoln. And ultimately it needed to be repudiated by defenders of slavery in the South because of its inconsistency with that institution.

  1. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . .’’

Another overlooked line, but for our purposes, possibly the most important. For it states what will later become the central underlying “republican” assumption of the Constitution: that “first comes rights and then comes government.” Here, even more clearly than Mason’s draft, the Declaration identifies the ultimate end or purpose of republican governments as securing the pre-existing natural rights that the previous sentence affirmed is the measure against which all government—whether of Great Britain or the United States—will be judged.

  1. “. . . deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

For reasons I will explain in this book, there is a tendency today to focus entirely on the second half of this sentence to the exclusion of the first part that references the securing of our natural rights. Then, by reading “the consent of the governed” as equivalent to “the will of the people,” the second part of the sentence seems to support majoritarian rule by the people’s “representatives.” In this way, the “consent of the governed” is read to mean “consent to majoritarian rule.” Put another way, the people can consent to anything, including rule by a majority in the legislature who will decide the scope of their rights as individuals.

But read carefully, one sees that the Declaration speaks of “just powers,” suggesting that only some powers are “justly” held by government, while others are beyond its proper authority. And notice also that “the consent of the governed” assumes that the people do not themselves rule or govern, but are “governed” by those individual persons who comprise the “governments” that “are instituted among men.”

The Declaration stipulates that those who govern the people are supposed “to secure” their pre-existing rights, not impose the will of a majority of the people on the minority. And, as the Virginia Declaration of Rights made explicit, these inalienable rights cannot be surrendered “by any compact.” So the “consent of the governed” cannot be used to override the inalienable rights of the sovereign people.

So we should recognize that there has arisen a tension between the first part of this sentence and the second. In political discourse, people tend to favor one of these concepts over the other—either preexistent natural rights or popular consent—which leads them to stress one part of this sentence in the Declaration over the other. The fact that rights can be uncertain and disputed leads some to emphasize the consent part of this sentence and the legitimacy of popularly-enacted legislation. But the fact that there is never unanimous consent to any particular law, or even to the government itself, leads others to emphasize the rights part of this sentence and the legitimacy of judges protecting the “fundamental” or “human” rights of individuals and minorities.

If we take both parts of this sentence seriously, however, I believe this apparent tension can be reconciled by distinguishing between (a) the ultimate end or purpose of any legitimate governance and (b) how any particular government gains jurisdiction to rule. So, while the protection of natural rights or justice is the ultimate end of governance, particular governments only gain jurisdiction to achieve this end by the consent of those who are governed.

In Chapter 3, we will see how the concepts of “natural rights” of the people and “the consent of the governed,” were reconciled by the idea of presumed consent. The people as a whole can only be presumed to have consented to what was actually expressed in the written Constitution and, absent a clear statement to the contrary, they cannot be presumed to have consented to surrender any of their natural rights.

Later in our history, the uncertainty of ascertaining natural rights will be addressed by shifting the question from specifying particular rights to critically examining whether any particular restriction of liberty can be shown to be within a “just power” of government—that is, a power to which any rational person would have consented, such as the equal protection of their fundamental rights, including their health and safety.

  1. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This passage restates the end of government—human safety and happiness—and identifies the “form of government” as a means to this end. Therefore, the people have a right to alter and abolish any form of government when it is destructive of these ends, as the Americans declared the British government to be in the list that followed.

Jefferson adopted it from Article 3 of George Mason’s draft Declaration of rights, which affirmed “that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conductive to the publick Weal.”

* * *

The political theory announced in the Declaration of Independence can be summed up by the proposition I mentioned above: First come rights, and then comes government. According to this view:

  • The rights of individuals do not originate with any government, but pre-exist its formation.
  • The protection of these rights is both the purpose and first duty of government.
  • Even after government is formed, these rights provide a standard by which its performance is measured and, in extreme cases, its systemic failure to protect rights—or its systematic violation of rights—can justify its alteration or abolition.
  • At least some of these rights are so fundamental that they are “inalienable,” meaning they are so intimately connected to one’s nature as a human being that they cannot be transferred to another even if one consents to do so.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Pt. Townsend’s Centrum Hosts Annual Blues Workshops

Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop


July 26-August 2, 2015
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

Join us for this annual country blues gathering! The Port Townsend Acoustic Blues workshop is held at Fort Worden State Park, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most stunning and inspiring landscapes.

Unique and compelling about this particular workshop is the focus and intention put on a narrow band of early blues music, with preservation as the goal while honoring the offshoots of that core style of music. The primary core is acoustic pre-war (1920s and 1930s) country blues, the African-American cultures it grew out of and their traditions. Steeped in the rich music and cultures of rural communities of the Southern USA, this workshop gives attention to styles typified by the different players from various regions (Piedmont, the Mississippi Delta, Hill Country, and Texas), the differences in technique as well as how to get the proper sounds of these styles out of your instrument. The music is the primary focus of the multi-generational in-residence workshop week but the downhome back-porch vibe of the country blues culture creates a community vibe that lends a family gathering feel to the week.

To preserve country blues we need new blues, new songs, new players and new sounds along with the originals, songs and sounds that move the genre forward while honoring its rich rural traditions. This week is designed to inform your playing with the traditions of country blues, and make you a better musician – you’ll hang out, jam and swap tunes with interesting, accomplished, and fun bearers of acoustic blues traditions. You’ll take part in daily classes and serious music making in the evenings with some of the finest acoustic blues players working today.

Details on our 2015 workshop are still under development but we do have confirmations from a few of the faculty including: Paul Asbell, Sunpie Barnes, Michael Jerome Browne, Andy Cohen, Daryl Davis, Rich DelGrosso, Pat Donohue, Tom Feldmann, Mary Flower, Samuel James, Steve James, Micah Kesselring, John Miller, Dean Mueller, Lauren Sheehan, Cyd Smith, Alice Stuart, Valerie Turner, Lightnin’ Wells, Phil Wiggins. Check back in as we confirm the remaining faculty…

Centrum Blues from Champion Video Productions on Vimeo.

This generous community shares your passion and energy, and we can almost guarantee that by the end of the week you AND your playing will be heading into directions you didn’t predict just a few days earlier. Daily classes are offered in Hill Country, Delta and Piedmont styles, finger-picking, blues guitar, slide guitar, harmonica, violin, mandolin, banjo, blues piano, bass, accordion, blues singing, and gospel choir, all taught by masters of the traditions.

Please keep an eye on this website as details unfold. For information contact: Acoustic Blues Program Manager, Mary Hilts at, or 360.385.3102 x 116.

The schedule is still under development but here’s a general idea of what to expect:

Sunday, July 26, 2015: 3pm – arrive and settle in; 6pm – dinner; 8pm – welcome & orientation; and jamming after.

Monday – Friday: Breakfast; 2 morning workshop sessions; Lunch; 2 afternoon workshop sessions; late afternoon Gospel Choir and Back Porch Jam.

Evenings: entertainment, open jams, house parties.

There will be two public performances by the instructors on Friday and Saturday as well Blues in the Clubs both of these nights. Your workshop registration entitles you to prime seats at these shows.

Sunday August 2, 2015: farewell breakfast, check out of rooms by 11am.


Tuition: $560

Room and Board Fees:

$580, dorm with three meals a day
$495, dorm with lunch and dinner
Meal plans: $305 and $220

Under-18? You must be accompanied by an adult that is a registered participant, or registered chaperone. With your parent or guardian’s permission, a registered adult attending the workshop can be your chaperone or an adult chaperone not attending can accompany you and not participate in the workshop. Either way the chaperone or registered adult must register first by choosing either “Register” or “Chaperone” from the Registration Type drop down menu. Then when you register list their name and confirmation number as your Chaperone.

Gospel track: $150 — Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30pm, includes entry to mainstage performance. The gospel track does not include club passes.

Day Pass: $110 — good for one day of your choice Monday through Friday, includes evening jams, does not include entry to mainstage performance or club passes.

Each registration requires a unique email address.
For help with this issue please call Vernie, 360-385-3102 x117 or email

For questions visit our FAQ page, or contact Mary Hilts, program manager, or 360-385-3102 x116.

The Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop is a week-long, total-immersion experience that passes down the skills, sounds, stories, laughter, and heartache of the authentic bearers of the blues tradition. For many, it’s a pilgrimage. For others, it’s an intensive week of deeply satisfying music-making. For all, it’s a chance to learn new tunes and styles, and to take playing and performing to a new level.

  • WHEN

  • Sunday, July 26, 2015 – Sunday, August 2, 2015

  • Centrum at Fort Worden State Park
    PO Box 1158
    223 Battery Way
    Port Townsend, Washington 98368

  • Centrum at Fort Worden
  • Contact UsContact Us
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Persistence & Your Just Reward In the End


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Copyright: Dialogic Comedy in Pirate Rhetoric

by MICHAEL HIGH, Fordham University, USA

[Copyright © 2015 (Michael High). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd). Available at]

This article analyzes how the groups of the Swedish Pirate movement (specifically the Piratbyrån, The Pirate Bay, the Missionerande Kopimistsamfundet, and the Piratpartiet) use dialogical comedy to counter the rhetoric of the copyright lobby. By appropriating the discourse, slogans, and even names of pro-copyright groups, the Swedish groups position themselves as the natural respondents to antipiracy campaigns. This positioning helps them to publicize onerous copyright legislation and prompt discussion on infringement, free speech, and digital rights. The reclamation of the term piracy and the subversive doubling of antipiracy rhetoric in parody, irony, and satire allows for the resignification of piracy and the recontextualization of incorrect and alarmist statements by industry representatives. As a rhetorical strategy, dialogic comedy counters hegemonic discourse, facilitates social learning, and inaugurates debate and dialogue.

Keywords: Piratbyrån, The Pirate Bay, Kopimism, Piratpartiet, piracy, parody, irony, satire, comedy, dialogism, copyright, rhetoric, appropriation

We have this history that every time somebody calls us something negative, we just take the name and make it ours. —Peter Sunde, former spokesperson for The Pirate Bay

Beginning with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1909, Congress has allowed media industry representatives to revise and increasingly draft U.S. copyright legislation amongst themselves. This situation has led to broad rights for copyright owners and only limited exemptions for libraries, universities, and the public. The interindustry negotiations that produce these laws have privileged established actors, creating significant barriers to entry for newcomers and difficulties accommodating new technologies (Litman, 2006; Wu, 2004). Correspondingly, the length of copyright has continuously expanded, and the law now includes criminal penalties for noncommercial infringement (Netanel, 2008). International lobbying and trade agreements, which often link aid and trade to the protection of intellectual property (Wang, 2003), have exported this industry-centered copyright to Europe and are aligning regimes across the globe.


Michael High: Date submitted: 2015–02–06

926 Michael High International Journal of Communication 9(2015)

With the creation of Napster in 1999, the film, recording, and software industries began litigating against private individuals and producing public media campaigns to curb peer-to-peer file sharing and other forms of unauthorized copying. Industry representatives describe such consumer practices as “piracy.” Piracy rhetoric, when used by the same industries that write and influence copyright legislation, insists that noncommercial copyright infringement results in economic destruction and criminal villainy.1 Although the term “piracy” originally denoted maritime predation, it became the common way to describe the supposed trespass on “literary property” by competing publishers in the 17th century (Johns, 2009), and until the introduction of blank cassette tapes in the 1980s (“Watchdog under fire,” 1984), the term did not include noncommercial copying. It is worth noting that the use of piracy to describe infringement is not simply metaphorical (Dawdy 2011), as piracy rhetoric functions the same across maritime and intellectual domains: Just as colonial sovereigns labeled pirates those who trespassed on their self-proclaimed right to pillage from and on the sea (Heller-Roazen, 2009), in the context of copyright, “piracy is a metaphor selected by the powerful and imposed upon the weak” (John, 2014, p. 8).

Over the last decade, however, the groups of the Swedish Pirate movement have embraced the terms pirate and piracy to challenge the rhetoric of the Motion Picture Association, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the Business Software Alliance, and their national affiliates. Led by the Piratbyrån (Pirate Bureau), The Pirate Bay BitTorrent tracking website, the Missionerande Kopimistsamfundet (Missionary Church of Kopimism), and the Piratpartiet (Pirate Party), this movement has significantly intervened in European debates over the status of digital piracy. Though lacking the economic and media resources of their opponents, these groups have affected the popular and political debates in Europe through the reappropriation of the term pirate and the recontextualization of industry representatives’ statements. Through what I call dialogic comedy, which is the humorous appropriation of another’s ideas and statements, the pirate groups have articulated their own positions and facilitated media dialogue and public education on the role and scope of intellectual property in society.

While designations of piracy define actions and exclude actors from authorized “circulatory channels” (i.e., the legitimate production and movement of goods and ideas) (Dent, 2012, p. 663), the embracing of the appended label can force a contest between the designator and designee. By reappropriating the pirate label and the term piracy, Swedish Pirates have positioned themselves as the natural respondents to antipiracy media campaigns. Though discursive appropriation need not be comedic, parody, irony, and satire align particularly well with the youthful, iconoclastic sensibility of digital natives while encouraging group identification and participation.

In this article, I review the development of the Swedish Pirate movement, integrate theories of discursive appropriation with scholarship on copyright rhetoric, and analyze pirate texts for their counterhegemonic and affiliative potential. I argue that groups in the movement have humorously

[1 See, for instance, the Federation Against Copyright Theft’s “Copyright Is a Matter of Fact,” available at

and the Motion Picture Association’s “Who Makes Movies?” available at]

appropriated the term piracy and antipiracy rhetoric to initiate a public dialogue on the undemocratic development of copyright legislation. The study of the so-called copyright wars is well established at this point, with particular focus on legal rhetoric, political lobbying, intra- and interindustry disputes, and on antipiracy campaigns aimed at consumers and even schoolchildren. Recently, several scholars have studied the Swedish Pirate movement as a social movement (Andersson 2011; Burkart, 2014; Lindgren & Linde, 2012; Lindgren & Lundström, 2011), and others have specifically analyzed the rhetoric of piracy, file sharing, and copyright reform advocates (John, 2014; Lindgren, 2013; Logie, 2006). This article contributes to this body of work.

Genealogy of the Swedish Pirate Movement

Developing out of the Swedish hacker and Internet radio broadcast communities, Piratbyrån began in 2003 as a loose collective responding to the antipiracy group, Svenska Antipiratbyrån (Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau). According to Piratbyrån member Magnus Eriksson,

There was no Bureau of Piracy for them to be against. They were against an invisible mass. So we thought that “ok, you can be against us.” . . . Now they had to be against someone that gave them counter arguments. (in Lindgren & Linde, 2012, p. 149)

The group created and operated an Internet forum ( that functioned as a knowledge pool and discussion space for more than 60,000 registered members who intervened in various media and events, such as issuing press releases; publishing op-eds in Swedish newspapers; participating in Swedish television and radio debates; launching pro-piracy media campaigns; and lecturing at universities, conferences, and festivals throughout Europe (“The Bureau,” 2007; Fleisher & Torsson, 2006). In 2010, the group disbanded and shuttered its website.

During its first year, Piratbyrån started The Pirate Bay BitTorrent tracker website ( Initially launched by Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij later joined as technical support, and Peter Sunde eventually became the media spokesperson. Due to the technical nature of the site as well as its growth, The Pirate Bay separated from the Piratbyrån in 2004, though the two continued to act together occasionally. Although not the first torrent tracker, The Pirate Bay quickly became the largest in the world and, as of October 2014, had 6.6 million registered users sharing 5.7 million torrents and a global site rank of 84 out of 500.2 The Pirate Bay originally operated legally under Swedish law, but in 2005 Sweden implemented the EU Copyright Directive, which harmonized copyright law with provisions similar to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Following implementation, pressure from the copyright lobby and the U.S. State Department led to police seizing the servers of The Pirate Bay and other websites (Piratbyrån’s in particular), though the site returned after a few days. In 2008, a coalition of Nordic and U.S. media companies filed civil and criminal charges against the site and its operators, who were eventually sentenced to prison time and fines of several million dollars. At the time of this writing,

[2 Site rank refers to the most visited websites for the current month. The Pirate Bay user information is available at, and page ranks can be found at]

Sunde has served his prison sentence, Svartholm and Neij are serving theirs (along with sentences hacking related offenses), and the site is run with the help of anonymous administrators. Attempts to shut down the site by international and local authorities continue.

According to Sunde, at some point in 2007, Monique Wadsted, the Swedish lawyer for the Motion Picture Association, was asked her view on file sharing advocates. Wadsted allegedly responded, “It’s just a few people, very loud. They’re a cult. They call themselves Kopimists” (Faris, 2012, para. 1). Sunde then appropriated the idea: “We were called pirates, so we said, ‘Let’s make pirates cool.’ O.K., so now, we’re a cult. Let’s make that fun as well” (Faris, 2012, para. 1). Though Sunde never followed through with the idea, he devised a working name: Church of Copying Kopimists, or COCK for short (Sunde, 2012). In 2012, Isak Gerson and Gustav Nipe received official recognition in Sweden for the Missionerande Kopimistsamfundet. According to its constitution, the religion values “all information irrespective of its content” and holds the copying and disseminating of information “as ethically right.” Adopting the key combinations Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V as its religious symbols, the religion’s central commandment is “Copy and seed” (First United Church of Kopimism, 2012, para. 12). As of 2012, the Kopimists had more than 5,000 members in the Swedish congregation and congregations in 18 countries (Faris, 2012).

Rick Falkvinge founded the Piratpartiet in 2005 as a response to the unsuccessful fight against software patents in the EU Parliament, to the criminalization of file sharing in Sweden (with the adoption of the EU copyright directive), and to the EU’s mandatory data retention of all telephony and Internet transmissions (Falkvinge, 2011a). Though the party did not originate from a Piratbyrån member, it copied the collective’s name, ideas, and tactics (Falkvinge, 2011b). The speed at which the party garnered attention was remarkable: One day after Falkvinge set up a Web page and posted a link in a chat channel, Swedish national media reported on it, and two days later, international media did the same (Norton, 2006).

The Piratpartiet’s single most important goal is protecting civil liberties. To do so, it advocates the abolishment of the patent system, which is “damaging to innovation, to competition, and to economic growth” (Engström, 2012, para. 2); the legalization of noncommercial file sharing; a prohibition on digital rights management software; a five-year limit on instant copyright, with a maximum of 15 years with registration; and reasonable regulation for quotations from audio, video, and other media, similar to those covered by fair use (Engström, 2012). The goal has clearly resonated; there are now parties in 63 countries, with representatives in local, city, state, national, and EU parliamentary seats. Nipe, the cofounder of the Missionerande Kopimistsamfundet, leads the party’s youth organization, which is one of the largest and fastest growing in Sweden.

These related groups function as channels for the political energies of Swedish and European youth. Lindgren and Linde (2012) hold that online piracy in Sweden is a social movement, a group of people “acting together to change society” (p. 161). A “third wave” social movement, the pirate movement differs from earlier ones based on worker and identity politics because it coalesces around everyday practice, enabling the transition from subpolitical to political action (Lindgren & Linde, 2012). Burkart (2014) similarly finds, though from a different standpoint, that pirates are a “new social movement,” a middle class, nonrevolutionary movement “dedicated to social learning and cultural decolonization” (p. 37) of the lifeworld. That is, they aim to facilitate collective learning processes and combat attempts to dictate and determine daily access to, and use of, networked communications and computer technology.

Through reflexive media campaigns, this movement attempts to create consensus among the larger society on issues related to privacy, free speech, and personal liberty rather than to primarily influence commercial and political groups (Burkart, 2014). The movement’s focus on debate and dialogue conflicts with the current legislation by industry approach, which imposes onerous and often unnecessary copyright legislation without public oversight (Agarwal, 2009; Burkart, 2014). As I will argue, by accepting the label of pirates and comically appropriating antipiracy discourse, the movement rhetorically performs the democratic dialogue on copyright and intellectual property that it desires to see in the larger society.

Antipiracy Rhetoric, Appropriation, and Dialogism

In various media and educational campaigns, the copyright industry has attempted to affect the norms and practices of unauthorized copying. Media campaigns generally exploit anxieties over job security and unemployment, portraying piracy as a threat to “ordinary working people” (Gates, 2006, p. 58), or they villainize infringers by linking copying practices to theft of physical property, organized crime, terrorism, human trafficking, and other offenses (Mirghani, 2011). Through spurious statistics and unchecked hyperbole, copyright industry representatives attempt to create moral panics that conflate digital piracy and crime epidemics, thereby justifying the legislation that criminalized unauthorized copying in the first place (Patry, 2009; Yar, 2005). The educational campaigns likewise obfuscate realities: They oversimplify copyright law, omit or constrain fair use, equate infringement with theft of physical property and plagiarism, define digital culture solely as mass culture and commerce, and present creativity as a strictly individualized, isolated phenomenon (Gillespie 2009; Yar 2008).

By accepting the pirate label, the Swedish groups become the target of these campaigns, but the appropriation of the label also provides an opportunity to counter their claims. As John (2014) asserts, the reclaiming of the pirate epithet functions similarly to the process of resignifying derogatory terms to counter hate speech.3 According to Butler’s (1997) theorization of performative speech acts, the resignification of harmful speech lies in the creation of the subject through designation: Naming creates a subject who can be injured by speech but also, paradoxically, can “use language to counter the offensive call” (p. 2). Through the recontextualization of the original speech act, a different intention animates the offensive speech and enables it to “perform a reversal of effects” (Butler, 1997, p. 14).

John, in his application of Butler to piracy, cautions against the use of the term “piracy,” as it evokes a “sense of lawlessness and excitement” (2014, p. 10). He advocates instead the term file sharing, which has a history within the cooperative formation of the Internet and signifies positive emotional engagement. Whereas piracy is imposed from the top down, file sharing “is a term that has emerged bottom-up from the field” (John, 2014, p. 7). According to John, academics and activists should

[3 I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for recommending this text.]

not allow the “war on piracy” metaphor to gain ascendancy—not only because “piracy” is such a negative term, . . . but also, and mainly, because when we call file sharing “file sharing” we are issuing a critical challenge to the current copyright regime. (John, 2014, p. 12)

Yet piracy has already become the dominant way to describe file sharing, and piracy has an arguably longer history of critical challenge and greater potential for emotional engagement. Unlike most hate speech, in which derogatory terms have a primarily negative and traumatic history that overwhelms previous positive meanings, the term piracy has always been ambivalent. In the 5th century BCE, the Athenian historian Thucydides decried

the honor with which some of the inhabitants of the continent still regard a successful marauder, and by the question we find the old poets everywhere representing the people as asking of voyagers—“Are they pirates?”—as if those who are asked the question would have no idea of disclaiming the imputation, or their interrogators of reproaching them for it. (2004, p. 3)

In the 17th and 18th centuries, while colonial authorities deemed pirates the “villains of all nations,” popular ballads and other forms of folk literature celebrated the pirate as “doing justice to sailors” (Rediker, 2004, pp. 17, 83). A similar celebration of pirates exists in Hollywood cinema, in which they are at times represented, in the words of Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, as “rebellion distilled” (Surell, 2005, p. 119). The perennial ambivalence of piracy confirms a general understanding that what constitutes it “has been highly contested throughout history, usually based on conflicting political interests” (Kuhn, 2009, p. 7).

As Dent (2012) observes, piracy bifurcates into pejorative and celebratory appellations: Negatively, it is parasitic, lawless, and sociopathic; positively, it is just, liberatory, and revolutionary. If viewed as social banditry (Hobsbawm, 1959), piracy seeks to correct the inequities imposed on the weak by the powerful. When file sharers adopt the pirate label or the Jolly Roger symbol, as have several anarchist and anticapitalist protesters in recent years (Land, 2013), they adopt the positive history of revolt associated with pirates and contest the negative meanings. This is important because, as Butler (1997) insists, “to be addressed is not merely to be recognized for what one already is, but to have the very term conferred by which the recognition of existence becomes possible” (p. 5). Such recognition is essential in modern societies because, as Thompson (2005) maintains, the struggle for mediated visibility is the “principal means by which social and political struggles are articulated and carried out” (p. 49). To accept the designation of piracy acknowledges and pilfers the authority held by those making the designation, appropriating their symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1991). Thus, the respect, authority, and media visibility of antipiracy industry representatives can facilitate the visibility of those who identify as pirates.

Through the symbolic power of their opponents, pirates interpose their pro-piracy rhetoric into the monological discourses of intellectual property. According to Bakhtin (1981), monological discourse attempts to silence the natural polyphony of language and deny subjectivity to others. The monological voice speaks not in the hope of being spoken to, but with the full confidence of its irreproachability (Holquist, 1990). Dialogic discourse, which pirate comedy creates, inversely allows for “another’s speech in another’s language” (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 324) by repeating the utterances, form, and style of copyright maximalist discourse. Such “double-voiced” (ibid.) discourse creates a dialogue between previously separate intentions and statements.

Dialogic Pirate Comedy

The use of dialogic comedy to delegitimize copyright industry rhetoric and legislation distinguished Piratbyrån’s approach to intellectual property reform. The name of the group was a “semantic joke” formed by dropping the anti in Antipiratbyrån (Fleisher, 2009), which both conjured and problematized its other: It was, on one level, a direct confrontation with Antipiratbyrån, but on another level it lent a retroactive authorization to Antipiratbyrån’s existence, a posteriority that deconstructed Antipiratbyrån’s mission. By extracting Piratbyrån from Antipiratbyrån, the collective simultaneously justified Antipiratbyrån’s purpose by giving it an organized, recognizable enemy and undermined it by retroactively illustrating the excessiveness of the trade group’s responses toward unorganized file sharers. As well, the members demonstrated in their own persons that pirates were not the dangerous criminals conjured by antipiracy campaigns, but rather articulate and passionate young adults.

As Hutcheon (1985) formulates, parody is “imitation characterized by ironic inversion” (p. 6). It is “repetition with critical distance” (p. 6), distance which comes from the knowledge of the parodist’s place in history. Whereas the copyright lobby, to further its members’ interests, is militantly ahistorical in its pronouncements, ignoring the long history of piracy in media development and commerce (Decherney, 2012; Wu, 2004), the “double-voice” of Piratbyrån’s parody played “on the tensions created by . . . historical awareness” (Hutcheon, 1985, p. 4). This “trans-contextualization,” which “partakes of both the code of a particular text parodied, and also of the parodic generic code in general” (Hutcheon, 1985, p. 42), transforms the meaning of the original trade group. The name Piratbyrån activated and questioned the binary morality posited by the copyright lobby.

In addition, the extraction of Piratbyrån from Antipiratbyrån deftly appropriated the latter’s symbolic power. By closely mirroring the copyright group’s name, Piratbyrån positioned itself as the obvious balance for all of the group’s antipiracy interventions, campaigns, and public statements. Piratbyrån became the natural and necessary source for journalists to contact when reporting on Antipiratbyrån and piracy-related issues. This positioning is particularly ironic, because current media conglomeration facilitates the synergistic promotion of copyright lobby rhetoric across film, television, music, print publishing, newspaper, and software outlets. Through the “impasse of false symmetry” (Hall, 1974, p. 23) created by the myth of journalistic objectivity, the collective likely affected the profit of the very companies that reported on their activities.

For its logo, Piratbyrån similarly appropriated the history of the British Phonographic Industry’s “Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaign. The logo featured the campaign’s title over a modified Jolly Roger: a cassette over crossbones. Underneath this symbol, the logo insisted, “and it’s illegal.”4 When parodied by Piratbyrån, the symbol (sans slogan) became a double-coded reference to the collective’s support for copying and to the previous campaign. The “Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaign harnessed the perennial fear of new technologies, yet the continuing existence of the recording industry (however diminished) demonstrates the falsity of the original claim and of the many similar claims that have since followed. By parodying the earlier campaign, Piratbyrån reactivated the copyright industry’s alarmist and ultimately incorrect rhetoric, foregrounding the repetition of such claims for more than 30 years.

As with any parody, if the decoder of the text does not recognize the encoded parody, it does not work (Hutcheon, 1985). Yet both the name Piratbyrån and its symbol, even if read without the encoded parody, still signify a stance taken against copyright and a playful reappropriation of a stigmatized label. By self-designating as pirates, Piratbyrån harnessed piracy’s positive connotations (rebellion, courage, protest, etc.) to counter antipiracy campaigns’ negative ones (theft, job loss, danger, etc.). Such reappropriations “can both be a cause and a marker of elevated group status” (Galinsky, Hugenberg, Groom, & Bodenhausen, 2003, p. 223), and Piratbyrån used them to construct a “collective identity by referring to a common history and symbolism” (Lindgren & Linde, 2012, p. 158).

The Pirate Bay creates a similarly double-voiced discourse. The site’s “Legal Threats” page features cease and desist letters from companies including Microsoft, Apple, DreamWorks, SEGA, EA, and Warner Bros. with responses from site operator Svartholm. A paradigmatic response, for both the site’s attitude toward U.S. companies and its ironic textuality, is the response to the lawyer for DreamWorks SKG, who informed the operators that they would be liable for infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if they did not remove Shrek 2. Svartholm (2004) posted the original letter with this response:

As you may or may not be aware, Sweden is not a state in the United States of America. Sweden is a country in northern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, US law does not apply here. For your information, no Swedish law is being violated.

Please be assured that any further contact with us, regardless of medium, will result in a) a suit being filed for harassment [and] b) a formal complaint lodged with the bar of your legal counsel, for sending frivolous legal threats.

It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are . . . morons, and that you should please go sodomize yourself with retractable batons.

Please also note that your e-mail and letter will be published in full on

Go fuck yourself.

Polite as usual, anakata.

[4 An image of the British Phonographic Industry’s campaign logo is available at wiki/File:Home_taping_is_killing_music.png. The Piratbyrån symbol is available at http://commons.]

The response begins with a simple statement of fact and moves toward a juvenile and perverse climax, culminating in an ironic (“Polite as usual”) valediction. Yet the irony extends throughout the response, as became clear following the operators’ trial. Even after the website was declared illegal under Swedish law, the operators maintained it. The continued operation after the injunction confirms that the site’s operators have a rabid contempt for any law that inhibits technological experimentation and for any authority that limits Internet activity. Irony’s edge, to use Hutcheon’s (1994) term for the semantic and evaluative complexity of asserting irony, allows for dual readings of the legal response: as emphatic statement of national sovereignty and as empty bravado parading as legalist threat. Though Svartholm claims in the response that the site will sue for legal harassment and file a bar association complaint, it would not.5 Well aware of the contradiction such a suit would highlight (and the impossibility of winning), the intention is not to follow the law but rather to publicize, mockingly, its maintenance of power.

The Missionerande Kopimistsamfundet, like Piratbyrån, borrows liberally from the terminology, tone, and ceremonies of other groups (specifically, other religions), and even copied the exact language from Sweden’s laws into its application for official recognition (Cote, 2012). Like The Pirate Bay, the religion skates back and forth across irony’s edge, almost to the point of undecidability. According to cofounder and chairman Nipe, the religion began as “a joke” (Faris, 2012, para. 4), but cofounder and spiritual leader Gerson insists, “I don’t think it’s a joke at all. I think that many religions have been ridiculed over the years. I don’t think we’re the first to experience it” (Romig, 2012, para. 13).6 The ambiguity and irony of the religion (and its founders) highlights the crisis of religion in Sweden today, where registering a religion is “exactly the same process as registering a business company” (Romig, 2012, para. 8). With no deity and no afterlife, Kopimism is a reflexive satire of religion. Religions, at least as usually practiced, are inherently essentialist, positing an essence that transcends individual human life (soul, spirit, god, etc.). The holy is, therefore, that which transcends the physical. Yet by making the first tenet of the religion “Information is holy” (Huffington Post, 2012), Kopimism undermines any notion of transcendence, because its holiest of holies does not manifest in the physical world.

To combat copyright, the “church” advocates that all expression has potential value and should therefore be shared and spread; hence, its one commandment is “Copy and seed.” In this formulation, that which is most valuable is that which is most shared, reversing the normal value in scarcity (Baraniuk, 2012). Like Piratbyrån, but in its own particular way, the religion denies the validity of copyright by apotheosizing copying and, implicitly, the desire to consume. If, as Dawdy (2011) claims, consumer “piracy represents one of the sharpest ironies of neoliberal capitalism” because it creates “new consumer frontiers for multinational corporations” and the “conditions that make it possible for local producers of imitations to satisfy the new demands of globalized desire” (p. 380), then Kopimists crown that irony by

[5 The site’s “lawyers” was a law student contacted through Internet Relay Chat (Persson & Klose, 2013).  6 The founder of the First United Church of Kopimism in the United States, Christopher Carmean, also insists that the U.S. church and its 666 members are “not a joke” (Fitzpatrick, 2012, para. 6).]

sanctifying desire and piracy. The religion has selectively appropriated aspects of economics and theology that undermine other economic and religious systems: exchange without exchange value and belief without believing in something. Fittingly, Kopimists have taken one particular biblical passage as their own: “Copy me, my brothers, just as I copy Christ himself” (1 Cor. 11:1). Kopimism is sure to become the most successful missionary religion in history, considering that computer users practice it every time they press Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.]

Reflexive appropriation is also at the core of the Piratpartiet. Falkvinge (2011b) stresses that starting the party was not a radical innovation: “Pirate policies were already established by the Piratbyrån. When the time came to politicize the issues, it was not a matter of founding a new party and start [sic] contemplating its name” (para. 9). Just as “the gay movement reclaimed the word gay” (para. 15), pirates reclaim the term pirate: “By standing proud about being a pirate, and doing so in public, you take that weapon away from the copyright industry’s lobby. These days, they are even complaining that branding people as pirates doesn’t work anymore” (para. 15). By copying Piratbyrån, the party gained the copyright lobby’s purloined symbolic power as well as the collective’s members and supporters. After the police raid on The Pirate Bay and Piratbyrån’s servers, party membership jumped from 2,000 to 6,000 (Poulsen, 2009), and media outlets that were previously uninterested in the party put Falkvinge’s face, according to him, “on every news broadcast on every hour on every channel” (Anderson, 2009, para. 6). Following the guilty verdict in the site’s trial, the party’s membership more than doubled, increasing from 15,000 to 37,000 within a week (Poulsen, 2009).

Like the other groups, the Pirate Party has frequently used dialogic comedy to communicate its positions and compromise its opponents’ positions. The first pirate platform held that the party, if elected, would ensure that Swedish Justice Minister Thomas Bodström would “get no other public job except selling hotdogs outside of parliament,” because “he at least can’t do any damage from there” (Falkvinge, 2011a, para. 14). For April Fools’ Day 2012, the party demanded that the Swedish Parliament compensate it and its members for their labor. Through incomprehensible arithmetic that parodied piracy loss statistics, the party demanded “61 billion euros . . . from those who have stolen so much time from the party’s activists, stolen it through their lack of interest for culture and privacy” (Falkvinge, 2012, para. 6). The year before, the party embraced copyright lobby statistics, claiming that they “might actually be accurate,” even though “the copyright industry’s claimed losses” far exceeded “the gross domestic product of the entire planet” (Troberg, 2011, para. 1). Ironically stating that it would generate “several million euros . . . every hour” by letting two computers copy music and movies back and forth (Troberg, 2011, para. 4), the party planned to hire the six million people comprising the entire Swedish workforce with the money it was taking from the copyright industry.

Comedy, Affiliation, and Democracy

Dialogic comedy is not the only strategy used by the Swedish Pirate movement. Through a comparative analysis of corporate news organizations and pro-piracy blogs, Lindgren (2013) reveals that pirates practice the same moral panic discourse as antipiracy groups. Pirates too insist that their opponents are folk devils (Cohen, 1972), casting the industry and the government as threats to Internet users. This approach is not surprising, because demonization is a handy and simple rhetorical strategy, and those aware of pirate blogs are probably already sympathetic to pirate politics. However, the centrality of dialogic comedy to the groups’ formation, names, and positions (and thus all their subsequent interventions) indicates that, as a rhetorical strategy, dialogic comedy has functions other than countering opponents’ assertions.

Conceptions of comedy based on the superiority theory of humor stress the aggressive nature of joking (Morreall, 2009), and pirate comedy certainly assaults its targets to delegitimize them. However, as several scholars have noted, comedy also helps to challenge accepted notions and create social bonds, which is essential for any emerging social movement. Emerson (1969) contends that joking provides a way for communicating taboo topics and facilitates bargaining arrangements between participants. Douglas (1999) claims that jokes simultaneously “destroy hierarchy and order” (p. 155) while establishing connections between ideas and individuals. And Davies (2005) finds that jokes “are a consequence of hegemony but are at odds with it,” providing “an area of ambiguity and incongruity where no-one is quite sure what has been said” (p. 28).

Conceived in this way, pirate comedy creates the ambiguity necessary for questioning hegemonic discourses and, through its questions, creates shared understandings and establishes community. It examines the prohibitions against unauthorized circulation and reproduction of information in a captivating way, facilitating social learning through the repetition and recontextualization of discourse in parody, irony, and satire. In the United States, where the influences of lobbying and campaign contributions have created political deadlock, resulting in congressional favorability ratings falling from 65% in 2001 to 23% in 2014 (Pew Research, 2013), appropriative comedic modes are increasingly salient. As the interventions of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and others have demonstrated, dialogic comedy can inform and prompt people to political action. The concurrent appearance of these shows and pirate comedy suggests that when politics serves the interests of corporations and oligarchs over those of the citizenry, dialogic comedy enacts the processes of debate and consensus building necessary to democratic political action.


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CIA Combined Torture w/Human Experimentation

CIAwatertortureFormerly classified document exposes how agency’s attempt to legitimize abusive interrogation program was itself another layer of crime

by John Queally

After the Central Intelligence Agency was given authority to begin torturing suspected terrorists in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, newly published documents show that another of that program’s transgressions, according to experts, was a gross violation of medical ethics that allowed the agency to conduct what amounted to “human experimentation” on people who became test subjects without consent. [What was the point of beating the Nazis only to become just like them?]

Reported exclusively by the Guardian on Monday, sections of a previously classified CIA document—first obtained by the ACLU—reveal that a long-standing policy against allowing people to become unwitting medical or research subjects remained in place and under the purview of the director of the CIA even as the agency began slamming people into walls, beating them intensely, exposing them to prolonged periods of sleep deprivation, performing repeated sessions of waterboarding, and conducting other heinous forms of psychological and physical abuse.

The document details agency guidelines—first established in 1987 during the presidency of Ronald Reagan but subsequently updated—in which the CIA director and an advisory board are directly empowered to make decisions about programs considered “human subject research” by the agency.

As journalist Spencer Ackerman reports:

The relevant section of the CIA document, “Law and Policy Governing the Conduct of Intelligence Agencies”, instructs that the agency “shall not sponsor, contract for, or conduct research on human subjects” outside of instructions on responsible and humane medical practices set for the entire US government by its Department of Health and Human Services.

A keystone of those instructions, the document notes, is the “subject’s informed consent”.

That language echoes the public, if obscure, language of Executive Order 12333 – the seminal, Reagan-era document spelling out the powers and limitations of the intelligence agencies, including rules governing surveillance by the National Security Agency. But the discretion given to the CIA director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research” has not previously been public.

The entire 41-page CIA document exists to instruct the agency on what Executive Order 12333 permits and prohibits, after legislative action in the 1970s curbed intelligence powers in response to perceived abuses – including the CIA’s old practice of experimenting on human beings through programs like the infamous MK-Ultra project, which, among other things, dosed unwitting participants with LSD as an experiment.

The previously unknown section of the guidelines empower the CIA director and an advisory board on “human subject research” to “evaluate all documentation and certifications pertaining to human research sponsored by, contracted for, or conducted by the CIA”.

Critics have long blasted any members of the medical community who participated in the torture program as traitors to their ethical and professional duties, but as the Guardian notes, “The CIA, which does not formally concede that it tortured people, insists that the presence of medical personnel ensured its torture techniques were conducted according to medical rigor.”

But Steven Aftergood, a scholar of the intelligence agencies with the Federation of American Scientists, told the Guardian that these men who were tortured by the agency were, in fact, being studied by medical professionals to see how they would respond to such treatment. In addition to the inherent crime of that abuse, they were also unwitting subjects who never gave their informed consent to be studied in this way. “There is a disconnect between the requirement of this regulation [contained in the document] and the conduct of the interrogation program,” Aftergood explained. “They do not represent consistent policy.”

And Nathaniel Raymond, a former war-crimes investigator with Physicians for Human Rights and now a researcher with Harvard University’s Humanitarian Initiative, put it this way: “Crime one was torture. The second crime was research without consent in order to say it wasn’t torture.”

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Thou Shalt Not Kill: U.S. Marine Debunks Military Hype


by Chris Hedges

The military in the United States portrays itself as endowed with the highest virtues—honor, duty, self-sacrifice, courage and patriotism. Politicians, entertainers, sports stars, the media, clerics and academics slavishly bow before the military machine, ignoring its colossal pillaging of state resources, the egregious war crimes it has normalized across the globe, its abject service not to democracy or freedom but corporate profit, and the blind, mind-numbing obedience it inculcates among its members. A lone soldier or Marine who rises up inside the system to denounce the hypermasculinity that glorifies violence and war, who exposes the false morality of the military, who refuses to kill in the service of imperial power, unmasks the military for what it is. And he or she, as Chelsea Manning has learned, swiftly pays a very, very heavy price.

Spc. Robert Weilbacher as a new Army combat medic stationed in South Korea listened to stories told by combat veterans, many suffering from trauma and depression, about the routine and indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was horrified. He had believed the propaganda fed to him over the years. He considered himself a patriot. He had accepted the notion that the U.S. military was a force for good, intervening to liberate Iraqis and Afghans and fight terrorists. But after hearing the veterans’ tales, his worldview crumbled. He began to ask questions he had not asked before. He began to think. And thinking within any military establishment is an act of subversion. He soon decided he did not want to be part of an organization that routinely snuffed out the lives of unarmed people, including children. He applied in February 2014 for a classification known as Conscientious Objector (1-0).

He instantly became a pariah within his unit. No one wanted to associate with him. He was taunted as a “traitor,” “coward,” “faggot” and “hippie.” He was assigned to the most demeaning jobs on the base. And the military bureaucracy began making him jump through hoops that he is still trying to negotiate two years later. He became an example to his fellow soldiers of the physical and emotional harassment, as well as humiliation, that is visited on all who dare within the military to challenge the sanctity of war and discipline.

“I feel as if my own government is torturing me,” he said when I reached him by phone in his barracks at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Weilbacher, 27, grew up in poverty, raised by a single mother, in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio. As a student at Ohio State University, where he was a political science and English major, he started two organizations to help feed the homeless. He was an idealist. He wanted to serve humanity. And, in the warped culture in which he lived—American culture—the best way to do that was to join the military, which was organized, he thought, around “noble ideals.”

“The public perception, including at Ohio State, which has a big ROTC program, is that soldiers are heroic,” he said. “They’re serving their country. They’re in the best Army in the world. I didn’t question this. I watched the commercials with the climatic background music for the Marine Corps—‘the few, the proud, the Marines.’ The Marines have the biggest masculine factor. I thought, I have the credentials to be a Marine officer.”

“Every message given to me by popular culture was that violence was a means of conflict resolution,” he said. “This was especially true in the inner city where I grew up and where there is a lack of education. Video games, such as ‘Call of Duty,’ normalize violence. You don’t realize the impact it has. Your conscience is subverted. In ‘Call of Duty’ you get rewarded for killing—you rank up in the system. The message is if you like ‘Call of Duty’ you’ll like the military. And, of course, the military also incentivizes killing. If you do well at marksmanship you get rewarded with three-day passes. You only think about the points you can get from becoming an expert marksman. You don’t think about the act of taking a human life. Every aspect of popular culture incentivizes violence, from television shows to movies like ‘American Sniper.’ Killing is presented as noble. Those who kill are supposed to be heroes. And this prepares us for the military.”

When he graduated from college he signed up for Marine Officer Candidates School and was sent to Quantico, Va., for boot camp.

“When we marched in formation we shouted out cadences,” he said. “Most of the cadences were about killing. We shouted ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ We shouted ‘What makes the green grass grow? Blood! Blood! Blood!” We shouted ‘AT&T. Reach out and touch someone.’ The intent of OCS [Officer Candidates School] was to normalize violence, to condition us. It was very effective. Again, I didn’t think about what I was doing. All I was thinking about was being a Marine Corps officer.”

But four weeks into his training in early 2012 he was injured and had to drop out. He was devastated. He did not want to begin the whole application process again with the Marines, and he enlisted in the Army in April 2013. He went to Fort Sill, Okla., for basic training. He was then trained as a medic (68W) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He enrolled in airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga., and during the second week of training was injured during a practice for landing falls.

In December 2013 he was deployed to Camp Hovey in South Korea, 10 miles from the border with North Korea. He was attached as a medic to the 4-7 Cavalry. He began to hear disturbing stories about the wars in the Middle East, not the glorified stories spun out by recruiters, the media or the entertainment industry, but stories about whole families being blown up or gunned down by U.S. troops in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. He lived among soldiers who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many were drinking heavily. He listened to them talk about being prescribed anti-depressants by Army doctors and then being redeployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He may have been a medic, but he was required to carry a weapon and to use it in combat. He knew that for him, to do so would be impossible.

“I joined the military because I wanted to help people, to fight for the greater good,” he said. “And then I learned about innocent people being routinely blown up in war. I started researching the statistics on collateral damage in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“A medic in the Army weaponizes soldiers so they can go back out and kill,” he said. “When we are trained as medics we are told that our task is to preserve fighting strength. Being a medic in the Army is not about helping the people who need it most. Treatment is first directed towards casualties that have the best chance to survive. Army medics exist to perpetuate warfare.”

He discovered the Iraq Body Count website and was appalled by what he learned there. He began to devour the writings and statements of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, the Rev. John Dear, Muhammad Ali and the Dalai Lama. He could no longer watch violent movies or play violent video games.

“I began to read about the wars in Vietnam and World War II,” he said. “I read about Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Agent Orange, radiation and how it’s still affecting people today, how people are still dying or being born with congenital defects. I found Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. I had never heard of them. I guess there was a good reason I had never heard of them. I read ‘A People’s History of the United States,’ by Zinn. I read ‘Understanding Power,’ by Chomsky. A lot of my influences, even though I am an atheist, came from religious figures like Gandhi, Father John Dear and King. I read ‘Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.’ I know why they do not tell us the truth about war. We have a volunteer Army. If people knew the truth it would decrease the numbers who want to join. I had been betrayed.” Then, in early February of 2014, he went online to the website of the Center on Conscience & War, led by Maria Santelli and Bill Galvin. Soon he contacted the two activists and told them he was a conscientious objector.

Everything about the military culture, from its celebration of violence and hypermasculinity to its cult of blind obedience, began to disturb him. He was disgusted by the military’s exploitation of Filipino women who worked in the numerous bars and clubs near the base where he was stationed in South Korea.

“Filipino women were brought over to sing in the bars,” he said. “They were great singers. They worked in bars where Korean women had been ‘comfort women’ during the Japanese colonization. The bar owners took the passports of the Filipino women. … Soldiers bought drinks and sexual services from these exploited women. I had a big issue with that. It demonstrated a lack of values.”

When he was off base he would meditate in Buddhist temples. That helped, he said, to keep him sane.

Although Army regulations required that his application be sent to the Department of the Army Conscientious Objector Review Board (DACORB) within 90 days, it took more than 200 days for the document to arrive there. On Dec. 16, 2014, he was granted status as a conscientious objector and an honorable discharge. But the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for review boards, Francine Blackmon, unilaterally overrode the DACORB determination and denied his application, even though Army regulation AR 600-43, Par. 2-8, states that a review board decision is final. Now, in a final bid to achieve conscientious objector status, he has turned to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I have obeyed the rules during the whole process,” he said. “But in the military there is a double standard. If I do not obey the regulations I get court-martialed. If they do not obey the regulations nothing happens. It is I who suffers. If I lose this last bid I cannot reapply.”

This will be his last bureaucratic battle with the Army. He has followed the rules for two years. He will not, he said, be in the Army in 2017 at the scheduled end of his tour.

“If I’m forced to remain in the Army, I expect to eventually receive an order that I—as an objector—will be unable to comply with, resulting in a court-martial.”

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